Sublimity Elementary School students planted a new outdoor garden April 18 as part of efforts to broaden their classroom experiences.
The garden was built through a $65,000 state nutrition grant received last year by the North Santiam School District.
Principal Ryan Westenskow said the garden will give students a unique opportunity to learn lessons in science, agriculture and business that can’t be taught just in the classroom.
“That learning happens so much more organically – pun intended – so we’re hopeful we can create some of that applied learning,” he said.
Westenskow said the garden was the result of passionate teachers who brought up the idea last August as a way to engage students on a meaningful, interactive level. The district applied for the Oregon Farm to Child Nutrition Grant to fund the project and was awarded in November.
The grant was split between Sublimity Elementary School and Stayton Elementary School, which is working on its own outdoor garden. In addition to building the gardens, the grant will help pay for flowers and vegetables to be planted, as well as farm-related field trips.
Westenskow said Sublimity students became involved early on and submitted garden designs, which were then used to create the final design including 13 raised beds and a circle of beds in the middle. The garden was designed by Brenda Knobloch, school garden coordinator with the Salem-Keizer Education Foundation, whose work includes features at The Oregon Garden in Silverton.
Construction was handled by Luke Smith, owner of Trillium Landscape Constriction, in Mill City, who completed the project in about three-and-a-half weeks. Westenskow said he couldn’t be more satisfied with the work of Knobloch and Smith, and he feels fortunate the school became connected with the right people.
“I haven’t seen very many projects of this scale come together this quickly and this nicely,” he said.
The planting happened in time for Earth Day on April 22, and students from all grade levels were able to participate throughout the day. Westenskow said children learned not only the basics of handling young plants but how to choose an appropriate location, as some beds receive less sunlight or are further away from water.
He said school gardens are nothing new, but Sublimity’s garden was built with broad support from teachers, students, and even groundskeeping staff. That way the project won’t depend on a small handful of people to keep it going, but will truly belong to the school.
“It’s a place where, we hope, kids and teachers will want to be,” he said.